United States presidential election, 2008: The State of Patriotism


What is the American idea? It’s the fractious, maddening approach to the conduct of human affairs that values equality despite its elusiveness, that values democracy despite its debasement, that values pluralism despite its messiness, that values institutions of civic culture despite their flaws, and that values public life as something higher and greater than the sum of all our private lifes. (The Editors of The Atlantic Monthly)

This was the secret of America: a nation of people with the fresh memory of old traditions who dared to explore new frontiers, people eager to build lives for themselves in a spacious society that did not restrict their freedom of choice and action. (John Fitzgerald Kennedy)

In a new cover story in Time Magazine, Peter Beinart looks at what patriotism means in the United States of America.

“How to Be a Patriot. On inspection, the liberal and conservative brands of patriotism both have defects. In a country where today’s nativists are yesterday’s immigrants and where change is practically a national religion, conservative patriotism can seem anachronistic. To be Spanish or Russian or Japanese is to imagine that you share a common ancestry and common traditions that trace back into the mists of time. But in America, where most people hail from somewhere else, that kind of blood-and-soil patriotism makes no sense. There is something vaguely farcical about conservative panic over Mexican flags in Los Angeles when Irish flags have long festooned Boston’s streets on St. Patrick’s Day. Linking patriotism too closely to a reverence for inherited tradition contradicts one of America’s most powerful traditions: that our future shouldn’t be dictated by our past.”

Read full story.

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